Published on January 27, 2020

blood donation

What to Expect When You Donate Blood

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood. Plateletsplasma and whole blood donations are all encouraged although their requirements for giving are different for each. If you have never given blood before, it can be a little intimidating. Mary Allison Mitchell, DO, a family medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group breaks down what to expect when you go to donate blood.


“Blood donors must have and be in good general health and not ill at the time of donation,” explains Dr. Mitchell. If you have a health condition, check with the American Red Cross to see if you are eligible for donating. Each type of blood donation has its own requirements that you must meet before you will be allowed to donate.


Whole Blood is the most common type of blood donation. A pint of your blood will be donated in its original form. To donate, you must:

  • Be 17 years of age, 16 years old with parents’ consent, in most states
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have not donated within the past 56 days
  • All blood types


Power red donation is a donation of two pints of red blood cells. Your red blood cells are donated while plasma and platelets are returned to you. Qualifications to donate include:

  • Male Donors at least 17 years old, 5’1” tall and weigh 130 pounds
  • Female donors at least 19 years old, 5’5” tall and weigh 150 pounds
  • Have not donated within the past 112 days
  • Blood types: O positive and negative, A negative and B negative


Platelet donation takes the platelets out of your blood and then returns the rest of your blood to you. To donate platelets, you must be:

  • 17 years of age
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have not donated within the past 7 days or more than 24 times in a year
  • Blood types: A positive and negative, B positive and negative, O positive and AB positive and negative


Plasma donation takes the plasma out of your blood and then returns your red blood cells and platelets to your body. To qualify for the donation of plasma, you must be:

  • 17 years old
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have not donated within the past 28 days, or more than 13 times a year
  • Blood types: AB positive and negative


On the day of your blood donation:

  • Wear a short-sleeved shirt, or one with sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow
  • Drink an extra 16 ounces of water beforehand, so you are hydrated
  • Eat a healthy meal before donating, focus on foods high in iron starting a few days before
  • Bring a list of medications you take regularly
  • Bring your driver’s license

When you arrive, you will:

  • Check in at registration
  • Answer questions about your health history
  • Receive a general health check

During your donation, you’ll:

  • Be seated comfortably during your donation
  • After 8-10 minutes, you will have donated a pint of blood

After you have donated:

  • You will enjoy a snack and a drink
  • After about 15 minutes, you will be able to leave and continue with your day

Dr. Mitchell says, “One blood donation can save up to three lives and the only way someone can get the blood they need is through people donating.” Unlike other body parts, blood cannot be manufactured or recreated by doctors or scientists. By donating blood, you are saving multiple lives and allowing someone’s loved one to live another day.

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